Ethical Sourcing in Food Markets

There are many foods on this Earth that are created for us to consume and then purchased at the expense of the grower. Examples of such products are cocoa plants, bananas, quinoa and coffee. Coffee and cocoa are HUGE commodities where the farmers are taken advantage of at every level. Some businesses have recognized the importance of equality in trade and have committed themselves to higher ethical standards. These are companies with integrity, like Alter-Eco (a chocolate company) and Alaffia (a soap/lotion company). Both of those companies mentioned are certified fair-trade, which means that a third-party governing body has over viewed their trading and other business practices and handed them a certification to display on their products for consumer knowledge.

For the most part, these certifications have done wonders in allowing consumers to make informed decisions about which companies hold integrity and which ones practice unfair trade. Since the dawn of the fair trade movement, food stores have hopped on board to uphold accountability. Most recently, Whole Foods Market developed a standard for the chocolate products [ See the article here in]. In October of 2012, the International Labors Rights Forum announced that Whole Foods Market would drop Scharffen Berger chocolates, which is one of Hershey’s companies. [First, I had no idea. I only thought Dagoba was Hershey's. Now I'll never put another one of their chocolates in my mouth because of their support against prop 37]. The article states:

The decision by Whole Foods came after pressure from over 40 natural food retailers and cooperatives concerned that children are being employed in Hershey’s supply chain. We do not take the concern over child labor or slave labor lightly, and we are currently in ongoing conversations with Hershey’s about its existing social accountability programs,” stated Whole Foods in a letter to Raise the Bar, Hershey!, a campaign that lobbies Hershey to improve its labor practices. “Whole Foods Market is removing Scharffen Berger chocolate from our shelves pending receiving further information from Hershey’s.”

I applaud Whole Foods for holding companies accountable for their business practices. They’ve recently announced that they will do the same for their coconut water suppliers. This makes me so excited, FIRST, because many coconut water brands are made from concentrate (eh hum, Coca-Cola… Zico… looking at you. I’m hoping that this might clear Zico off the shelves). More importantly, Whole Foods will be ensuring that all of the coconut water suppliers give an ethical sourcing certification! This is fantastic – as there aren’t coconut water vendors that I know of that focus on ethical sourcing. I’ve had Blue Monkey and C20… but I don’t recall either of these brands promoting their 100% coconut water as 100% sustainably purchased OR organic for that matter. The global buyer from Whole Foods, Errol Schweizer, stated:

“We are asking you to look at your supply chain for Coconut Water and confirm that your company is practicing responsible and ethical sourcing from seed to shelf.

As the coconut water category has grown, so has the reach of our brand’s supply chains. Unfortunately, we have seen very few brands actively market and promote their commitment to ethical sourcing and sustainability in this category. We do prioritize the few folks who have taken such heroic steps, but we now want to know what everyone else is doing. This should not be a surprise, as we did see media on this recently.”

The source I’m pulling from also notes the many fair trade certifications that suppliers can use, as well as Whole Foods Market’s continued emphasis on Fair Trade Certifications. It’s nice to see a huge corporation standing up for the farmer. For once.

Some great companies to look out for that uphold fair-trading practices:
  • Zhi Tea
  • Alaffia Sustainable Skin-Care
  • Alter-Eco Chocolates
  • Third-Coast Coffee
  • Theo Chocolates
  • Dr. Bronner’s Magic All-In-One


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